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July 01, 2021 / Nicole Villeneuve

Prediabetes Diet Plan: How to Eat if You’re Prediabetic

Falafel-spiced chickpea and cauliflower salad in a gray bowl on a gray plate with a fork.

If you've been diagnosed with prediabetes, it's time to take action to reduce your risks. One of the biggest changes you can make is in your diet and healthy meal planning. Choosing certain foods may help slow or even stop the progression of the disease, and help you feel your best.

What’s the best approach for creating your prediabetes diet plan? This article will help you understand more about what prediabetes is and the best ways to approach your diet with a few simple changes that can make a big impact.

What is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes is a condition in which the body’s blood sugar, or blood glucose levels, are higher than normal, but still lower than what’s diagnosable as type 2 diabetes. In both prediabetes and diabetes, higher blood glucose levels are caused by the improper production and use of insulin by the body’s cells. Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas produces to regulate blood glucose levels and is essential for helping the body properly store and use glucose for energy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “approximately 88 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes” and “of those with prediabetes, more than 84% don’t know they have it.” Prediabetes may not be as noticeable as type 2 diabetes, but the following are potential signs of prediabetes:

While the numbers for prediabetes may seem alarming, there are ways to slow down the progression of prediabetes and help prevent a more serious diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, especially by adjusting your diet. A proper prediabetes eating plan combined with an active lifestyle could be just what you need to avoid a more serious health condition.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes or have concerns about it and are seeing signs and symptoms of insulin resistance, consult with your doctor before making any diet or lifestyle changes. In this article, we will cover diet and lifestyle strategies that may help with blood sugar regulation.

Why Try a Prediabetes Diet Plan?

Your diet plays an instrumental role in the progression from prediabetes to diabetes and by making diet and lifestyle changes, you can slow the progression of prediabetes and possibly even reverse insulin resistance completely. Studies have found that specific diets can reduce the risk of diabetes.

Before being diagnosed with prediabetes, a person likely has some level of insulin resistance. Understanding how to reverse insulin resistance is key to keeping prediabetes at bay or preventing it from developing into diabetes. By knowing the signs and symptoms of insulin resistance, you can start making diet and lifestyle changes sooner.

Which diet plans are good for prediabetics?

The right prediabetes diet paired with healthy lifestyle choices is often all you need to reverse prediabetes. Diet plans that include nutrient-rich healthy foods and help you maintain a healthy weight are ideal for prediabetics. The following diet plans have been found to be effective at slowing or even reversing prediabetes:

Tips for Successfully Following a Prediabetes Diet Plan

Finding the right diet is unique to each individual. There are many different diets to address prediabetes, but ultimately, it’s important to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor to ensure you're doing what's best for your body. The following dietary suggestions are a good place to begin as you learn about prediabetes and the effects of food on your body.

1. Incorporate nutrient-rich vegetables

Incorporate Nutrient Rich Vegetables

Consuming vegetables is an important part of any diet, but choosing certain types of vegetables as part of a prediabetic meal plan may be helpful in regulating blood sugar. Not all vegetables offer the same health benefits, with some being starchier or carbohydrate-rich.

The body needs carbohydrates for energy, but an excess of them, or too much of a certain type of carbohydrate can lead to spikes in blood glucose levels. Regulating blood glucose is a key factor in treating prediabetes and for maintaining a healthy weight.

The following vegetables are nutrient-rich and may help support regulated blood sugar:

It’s important to remember that some vegetables can elevate blood sugar more quickly and should be consumed in moderation, such as beets and white potatoes. You may also want to avoid canned vegetables, particularly if they have a high sodium content.

2. Include healthy fats

include healthy fats

While high-fat foods like French fries and butter aren’t always great additions to a prediabetes eating plan, some fats may be beneficial. They may help you feel more satisfied, which can prevent you from going for sweet snacks to make you feel full or energized–and they’re delicious! Try incorporating the following healthy fat sources into your cooking:

When choosing fats to include, remember that they are high in calories, so consider adding them in moderation and being mindful of serving sizes.

3. Stay hydrated

stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways to approach your prediabetic eating plan. When your blood sugar starts to rise, your body tries to excrete excess sugar out of your system via urine. This can lead to dehydration, which is why it's important to stay hydrated. Water is one of the best sources of hydration because there are no added sugars that could spike blood sugar.

4. Increase your fiber intake

increase fiber

Fiber-rich foods provide several benefits and should be a prominent part of any prediabetes diet. Not only does fiber help maintain bowel movement regularity, but it also satiates you for longer and helps prevent overeating.

High-fiber foods include:

5. Choose low glycemic index foods

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The glycemic index is a helpful tool that measures how much certain foods affect your blood sugar levels. By consuming foods that are low on the glycemic index, you can prevent drastic blood sugar spikes.

Examples of foods that are low on the glycemic index and a good choice for a prediabetes diet plan include:

Foods to Avoid for Prediabetics

There are many delicious, nutritious foods for individuals with prediabetes to enjoy, but there are also foods to avoid. Generally, these are foods that can lead to elevated blood glucose levels, but some may also introduce risk factors for higher cholesterol, heart disease, and weight gain.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which is what raises your blood sugar. Starches, sugar, and fiber are all carbs. Out of the three, fiber actually improves glycemic control. To prevent blood sugar spikes, it’s important to keep your carb intake low by avoiding certain foods.

The following list of foods should be limited on your prediabetes meal plan, or avoided completely:

Prediabetic Diet Plan Examples

Sticking to a prediabetes diet plan is easier when you have tasty recipes to try. Here is an example of a prediabetic meal plan that is flavorful, helps prevent spikes in blood sugar, and leaves you satisfied and well-nourished.

Breakfast

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Start your day with these savory turmeric sweet potato & egg breakfast bowls. The sweet potatoes provide you with low glycemic, energy-rich carbs, while the eggs offer lean protein, and the arugula and pistachios deliver filling fiber.

Nutrition facts: 375 calories, 23 g carbohydrates, 25 g fat, 18 g protein, 6 g saturated fat, 7 g sugar, 461 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Lunch

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For lunch, try filling up on a fresh kale Greek salad with crumbled tofu and feta. Nutrient-rich kale is fibrous and has also been found to suppress glucose levels.

Nutrition facts: 428 calories, 23 g carbohydrates, 35 g fat, 19 g protein, 13 g saturated fat, 8 g sugar, 1377 mg sodium, 6 g fiber

Dinner

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Rich omegas are plentiful in this crispy-skinned salmon with creamy leeks and cabbage recipe. Low in carbs and high in lean protein, this meal is a great choice for a prediabetes diet plan.

Nutrition facts: 420 calories, 16 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 27 g protein, 13 g saturated fat, 6 g sugar, 345 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Snacks

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Get a boost with an energizing snack like toasted turmeric pumpkin seeds. Packed with protein and healthy fats, pumpkin seeds may help with maintaining glycemic control. This snack is simple to make and handy for eating on the go.

Nutrition facts: 283 calories, 6 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat, 14 g protein, 5 g saturated fat, 1 g sugar, 150 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

The Takeaway

Following these basic tips is a great foundation for a prediabetes diet plan, and may help you feel better, maintain a healthy weight, regulate blood sugar, and prevent a future diabetes diagnosis. As always, when considering a major lifestyle change, make sure you consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or registered dietitian.

If meal planning is right for you, PlateJoy Health can be a great asset to help you get started with a prediabetic meal plan. We offer assistance with everything from keto meal plans and low carb meal planning, to personalized grocery lists and delivery. Get creative with our extensive catalog of recipes and make healthy eating delicious. Are you ready to embark on a healthier lifestyle? Join the thousands of people eating better with PlateJoy Health.

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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